My Story

Today, I share with you a story of myself, for the benefits of those of you curious about the writer of this very very exciting blog *laugh*. For those of you who are uninterested, you can stop reading now.

For those of you who are still reading, I will try not kill you with boredom.

I was airdropped onto a frozen part of America, aka Mid West, in the middle of winter as a pre-teenager from Hong Kong. As a small Asian male with very little fat cells, it was the perfect time and place to be. I hope you realized my sarcastic tone. I had a cold that lasted me that whole winter, and the winter was loooooooooooooooong in Michigan.

Why the ice-land? The idea was to be close to relatives. Though, the main purpose for my parents to move to the States is still the education and future of their children. This is important because I would otherwise only have a “lowly” bachelor degree today. Kidding about the “lowly” part.

I never really enjoyed those early years in the U.S. because I had to help my parents due to English barrier, while my siblings were away at college for most of those time. Imagine a young teenager dealing with bills, writing checks, balancing accounts, reading work-benefits policy, visiting banks and insurance agency… Now imagine Paris Hilton reading the Constitution and studying mountains of text for Harvard Law. And I still had to deal with school work. I also had no idea about Simpsons and Dunkin’ Donuts and Backstreet Boys. I was as FOB-ish as can be in a mostly black and white community. It was impossible NOT to get picked on. And don’t get me started on the house chores. It was definitely GOOD time. I did enjoy the part where they all think about me what Keanu Reeves’s famous for saying, “I know Kung Fu.”

An extra little fact is that during this time, I, this clueless teenager only knew some half-ass English, is the translator in the house… at least attempting to doso. The best stuff were these insurance policy materials that contain “sophisticated” words and legal jargons. The result amounted to something like Chris Tucker trying to speak Chinese… But I digress.

I did not write about all these to complain. Besides to humor you, I mentioned these experience because I believe they have a huge impact on what I would become and how I would handle money. Most importantly, I realized how money can become such big issue in life. Yeah, I am real brainiac :P Moving on…

For my undergraduate studies, I was lucky enough to obtain enough scholarships to cover the 4 years at a state university. Additionally, I worked half-time in my college department as a slave system administrator to support my lifestyle. During that time, I spent some and saved some, without paying too much attention. I paid off credit cards monthly and never carried any balance. I believe this is the result of family influence, without noticing it myself then. As a computer science geek, I am as big a party animal I could be. I spent money eating out and for some evening outtings as many fellow students did. I did not travel to exotic places to see women with beads as vacation, but I did incur a lot of expense as a fencing team member. Besides the athletic part of the fencing experience, I was able to visit many college campus in different states (even Florida!), bonded with my fellow teammates, and met lots of other students from other universities. Although it cost me a lot during the 4 years, it’s not something I’d ever regret doing. This goes to show how money isn’t everything.

The tougher time comes during my master degree. First, let me say that I did not plan nor want to do a master degree because (1) my desire to become independent, (2) knowing there will be little financial support from family, (3) consequently, my concern with debt, and (4) I was never a big fan of school. I was a brat who is ready to become the next Bill Gates or Steve Jobs… yeah right. Anyways… life is not without a sense of irony. I was accepted into Stanford, to my surprise AND dismay. I finally decided to go for the sake of myself and for family expectation – to fulfill my “final” duty as a son. Remember my parents’ purpose of coming to the States?

I said “final” because it is part of my desire to become independent from my parents. You can chalk it up to typical relationship between son and very strict Asian parents.

At Stanford, no longer with any scholarship, I spent most of my savings (from scholarships and part-time in undergrad), took out student loans, and stopped to work full-time (and continued half-time during the rest of my school) in order to afford the tuition while opting only for subsidized loans. I did my best to make it through the 2 years. Before I found work, I sometimes starved myself until I can get home for dinner to save lunch money.

I kept telling myself this is an investment into myself. Hmmm, self-hypnotizing… that to get the Stanford name is akin to getting my name “gold-plated.” I was very fortunate to received help from my sister for a place to stay. Stanford’s environment began to shift my mentality and the tougher time makes me think, really think… It became the turning point for me…

To start learning about money.
To take charge of my own finance.
To try short-term stock trading. (bad idea…)
To understand that long-term is the way to think.
To know that having a corporate job will only get me so far, without supplements.
And most importantly, to take full responsibility for myself.

I used to envy peers who received support for school and especially, for their first real estate properties. However, I know now such envy is unnecessary. I know I would not become as independent had I gotten an easy way out. I would not have the confidence I have today. I would not act with backbone. I would not be an avid learner to study myself and the world around me. I am in the best place I can be. Oh, and of course, this blog would not exist otherwise either.

These experience also made it apparent to me, why a friend called me “a survivor” years back.

Hereby I conclude my little semi-autobiography. I notice I ended on more boring notes. My apology. Still, I hope you enjoy the read.

Originally posted 2008-02-25 00:32:24. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Dealing with Emotions

Allow me to share with you today a way to deal with emotions. For the majority’s concern, this is namely about a more healthy way to deal with negative emotions, although it is the same with positive emotions, as people never think in terms of dealing with positive emotions. By no means am I an expert or guru, but this is something I believe and practice and that is why I am sharing with you.

Before going into the description, I categorize below the common ways people act to deal with their emotions. Note that the categories usually happen in combination. After that, I share with you the way I have in mind, and finally I provide an example from my personal experience.

Distraction through External Means
We should all be familiar with this category, whether we know someone or we have done it ourselves. Things like drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex, or even food/chocolate… People use these external means to block out the mind and to numb the senses in order to avoid truly feeling emotions. It becomes abuse because the effect of is only temporary, which means they will have to do them incessantly to keep the effect.

Dramatization
This is another way for people to distract themselves from the real emotions, by blowing it out of proportion. “The end is here!” “Everyone hates me!” Is that really true? I doubt it. While the person focuses on those dramaticized thoughts, he does not have to deal with the emotions, and hence, another form of distraction.

Being in Denial
Somewhere in the continuum of human race, the notion that people should not have negative emotions was thought up. The ones who believe this notion refuses to acknowledge the fact when they are feeling emotion such as anger, hatred, jealousy, etc. Those are label as “bad”. It’s not right to have them. And they will relentlessly ignore them and probably claim that everything’s fine and they are happy, optimistic, kind, etc.

Obsession with the Emotion
This is the scenario where the person allows the emotion to completely take over. He loses self-control and most of his logical ability. He fixates on the emotion so much so that all his actions are purely as a result of that emotion. It is very difficult to talk sense into such people but easier to just try to calm them down first, even if just physically.

Substitution
Instead of feeling disappointed, people switch to anger. Instead of feeling sadness, people switch to anger. Instead of feeling love, people switch to hatred, at the end of relationships. It’s like playing musical chair with emotions.

When people react to their emotions in terms of the categories above, more negativity and harm are generated. My hypothesis on why people have so many problems due to emotions lies in the fact that they never deal with the emotions at the root when they happen. They do not fully experience their emotions, especially the negative ones. Therefore, they keep accumulating and eventually lead to detrimental effect, which can take years to happen and then years to resolve. It is similar to how people handle their physical body. They often do not maintain the body where they do not exercise and not have balanced diet until illness occurs, but this is another topic. Moving on to what I think people can do to deal with emotions.

Be Okay with Emotions
The first and foremost thing to understand is that it is okay to have emotions. Any types of emotion. Human beings are emotional creatures. It is part of being humans. You feel emotions. I feel emotions. Every single day. Lots of time during a day. As long as we are still breathing, emotions will happen. So it is okay to feel sadness, jealousy, hatred, anger, disappointment, frustration… Just as it is okay to feel happy, satisfied, excitement, passion, love… You need to understand that they are your emotions. Your emotions are not you. It is a big step if you can simply be aware that you have the emotions when you do. You want to fully feel your emotions as they happen.

Identify the Thoughts
Now that you know it is okay to feel emotions. You can be more comfortable with them. When you are sad, you feel sad. Just as when you are happy, you feel happy. This is about simply being with your emotions. When you are okay with having emotions, you can be aware of them. Once you are aware of what you are feeling, you can begin to understand what are the thoughts associated with it. Why do I feel sad? Why do I feel anger? The answers to those questions are our thoughts, which are the true culprits of the pain those emotions are causing you. These thoughts exist together with your emotions. Emotions are created from thoughts. And more thoughts can intensify emotions. Now that you know you have these thoughts, know that it is also okay for thoughts to exist also.

So the first two steps involve identifying the emotions and thoughts that exist within you. By no means are these two steps small or easy. It is very uncomfortable to do at first, but like everything else, it comes with practice. It may be so hard at first that you will want to run away and go back to the usual routine of distraction, dramatization, denial, obsession, or subsitution. We all do it. So let me say that this is also okay, but try to be aware of the behavior and if you can, return to identifying what are the emotions and thoughts. If you cannot, just try to stay calm and not act rashly for awhile. Then try again.

Check with Priorities
Now you are aware of the thoughts that you have. These thoughts are at the heart of why you are feeling the emotions. Remember I talked about priorities before. It is beneficial to line up those thoughts with your priorities, your values in life. The thoughts you are having, are they aligned with the priorities in life? If they don’t pertain, maybe they are not so important after all. Have you done your best in terms of your priorities in the event that leads you to feel those emotions? If you have done so, maybe it is not so bad after all because you did not abandon your values. If you haven’t, it’s also okay, because we all make mistakes. The important thing is to learn from it and do your best next time.

This is not an easy process, and it doesn’t make emotions and problems go away immediately. However, I do believe by following this process, you can face your emotions with a sense of peace and not to do anything destrustive to yourself and others. This is a process of fully experiencing your emotions and thoughts. I am also confident that you will “handle” the emotions in a shorter time frame instead of having them linger for ages. The more you practice experiencing emotion as described, the quicker it gets to free yourself from the burden of emotion.

I have briefly mentioned that I experienced a break up in a recent post. I will use what I have gone through as an example. Break up is never easy, as for you, as for me. As long as one is truly devoting one’s self to a relationship, the end is never easy. Definitely I was sad. Besides that, I also somewhat confused and then a bit angry. I think that is normal for most people :)

My Sadness
The fact is that I only enter into a relationship when I genuinely like the person a lot. I would like to spend time with her and have fun together, go through experience with her and be able to support each other through good and bad time. I sincerely care for this person, and hope that I can be there to make her and her days better. But in the end, she made the decision to leave. All these things combined together are the thoughts that made me sad. I still feel some sadness, but it is okay. During the time we are together, I did my best being the person I truly am and giving in the way I believe in. “I truly did my best yet it still ended”, that maybe another thought that is causing me sadness. That doesn’t matter because it is okay to have sadness. On the flip side, it can be, “I truly did my best and I have no regret.”

My Confusion
As for the true reason behind the end of relationship, I probably will never find out, which causes confusion. Being human and being me, I am curious. I also wonder what I could have or should not have done. However, the reason behind and all the wondering mean nothing. Does it really matter if it is really due to circumstances in life, or if she has found someone else? The bottom line is that she is certain about the choice. By staying calm during the conversation, that is exactly what I endeavored to ascertain with her. She has made up her mind. She has made the choice to walk a different path, and I will just have to be okay with it. And I am okay with it.

My Anger
As for anger…I am not quite sure, but probably for all the reasons that left me sad and confused. And also perhaps I was looking forward to spend our holidays together, decorating Christmas tree. A happy scene only to be decimated. A bit of anger was there, but it is now gone. After all, there is not that much to be angry about once I can be okay with my sadness and confusion. I should be thankful that we had a chance to share a part of our lives together.

In a nutshell, the key point here is to be aware and to be okay with your emotions, truly experiencing the emotion when it happens. Staying calm and just feeling it, know that it is there. It is okay for it to be there. Once you can do that, you can move on to seeing your thoughts. If you can do something about those thoughts, then do something about them. If you cannot, then there is nothing to do and no reason to have those thoughts and therefore no reason to have those emotions. And if there is emotion remaining still, just be okay and experience them. And repeat the process.

It will take time to develop this way of dealing with emotion. However, there is definitely this peace you feel by doing so, which will allow you do deal with more emotions that happen in the moments in life.

On a final note, this post has a lot to do with awareness, so if you enjoy reading this, feel free to check out my post on Awareness and Zen.

Originally posted 2007-12-21 16:54:20. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

We Own Things? Things Own Us?

I saw a commercial on TV tonight advertising storage and warehouse space. It begins with a lady entering her garage from the house but her car is not in her plain sight, instead… you guessed it! She sees a crap load of household utilities, furnitures, etc. Simply a load of crap. She then beeps the car with the unlock remote, and it shows the car completely buried under all the junks. Since it is a storage commercial, it inescapably concludes with her showing a happy face as she is loading them junks into a rented storage.

You know what I think when I see that?

I see the result and disaster created from materialism. It reminds me of an old saying that goes something like the things we own end up owning us. How true!

Remember I talked about the nice and uplifting feeling from my Memorial weekend clean-up? It did take me awhile to learn and realize. I used to think maybe keeping those things around, there will be use for them somday, just MAYBE. But then I have come to learn that having all those things creates clutters that annoy and stress me out unconsciously. Why? I would attribute it to the loss of space, which leads to the feeling of being confined and closed in. On top of that, I have to figure out what to do with a lot of these items! Often time all the items we keep just do not have a real purpose and do nothing but take up space beyond the initial excitement after the purchase.

So we have to figure out what to do with them. Or they could just be around taking up living space. On top of that, we need to repair and maintain both items that get used and those that don’t. As all these tasks cost us time and effort, we are becoming the servants of materials. Materials that we made the choice to buy.

Thus, here are the few things I propose for us to do:

  • Throw out or sell (craigslist/ebay/amazon…) unused, unnecessary items in the house – first step to fixing cluttered status quo. Do with cleaning.
  • Consistently keep our space clean and organized – again, this keeps the mind clear and thus allows for thinking clearly.
  • Have discipline when making purchases – understand if the item is needed, if it has its usage in daily living, and/or if it will be frequently used. If you must buy, buy things that offer lasting, long-term happiness, comfort, or higher standard of living.
  • Keep it simple – do we really need all these furnitures, fancy electronics, Persian rugs, gadgets after all?
  • Find peace and happiness within self – do not fall for “retail therapy” to fulfill these two purposes. Ask yourself, “Does it really make me happy long-term if I buy this?” or if it will just be a few seconds of joy right after purchasing, which begs the question if it’s worth it for dropping all those cash. Lasting peace and happiness are only to be found within.

Not only will these tips save you money from unnecessary expense. You won’t have to pay for these storage space too. Yay! Either way, it doesn’t hurt for you to think about the points above when you want to buy something.

On a last thought, I really wonder how in the world can someone accumulate so much stuff as to run out of space? Wouldn’t they realize how much space is left, then either clean up or control what more they buy? Oh well…

Originally posted 2007-06-20 11:35:44. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

If You Don’t Use It, You Lose It

In the past two years as I learned fitness/exercise/gym as a habit, one thing that is very pertinent in life is that – If you don’t use it, you lose it.

One doesn’t have to be a kinesiology major to understand that. My experience has been that even if it has just been a week of inactivity, I notice a deline in my weight training (very obvious) or cardiovascular performance. How do I tell? The answer is the amount of soreness I can feel. Even more obvious is the immense soreness + pain whenever I start some new training. And hence, the need for us to emphasize on consistency of exercise. To avoid the benefits that we have worked so hard to archieve, it’s best to continue to do something at least, even just to maintain a moderate level of the benefits. In addition…

The idea of “If you don’t use it, you lose it” does not only apply to fitness and health. On my path of exploring and learning singing myself, I continuously discovered that many of the causes for my difficulty to produce more beautiful tone are muscular apathy of head/facial area muscles. It is over time when I consciously practice these muscles that I am able to improve.

Actually, not only is this the problem for people trying to learn how to sing, but this is the problem for people between ethnic group learning a foreign tongue. Certain languages only require us to use certain facial muscles. It is one of the many reasons that when we try to learn a new language that we have difficulty with announciation. What we need to do is to practice using all the muscles on our face :)

Well, another thing is that us humans have a tendency to be lazy and use less, or just enough, muscle to perform a certain task. That is exactly why we need to re-learn deep breathing for our health, and also exercise our mind to maintain our mental sharpness, and of course, exercise our body to make sure we don’t lose those muscle.

In fact, I would go as far to say that everything in our body is governed by this concept of “If you don’t use it, you lose it”. Therefore, everyday we need to consciously use every part of our body and push it to improve, expand, and realize our potentials!

Originally posted 2007-05-02 23:01:12. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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